This isn’t one of those hidden message posts, a chance to learn from your decisions in life. This one comes purely from gratitude and love.
I’ve mentioned before that my “family” consists of my Dad, my “Mom” (step-mom) and my younger Brother. What people don’t understand is that I could call my step-mom by her given name to this day and she wouldn’t hold it against me. I told many in my life that I chose to call her “Mom” for the sake of avoiding confusion for my younger brother, but even that isn’t the truth.
When I was young, her and I would step aside and laugh at my dad’s temper tantrums. Something in his life wouldn’t go according to plan and he’d curse up a storm. We’d stand aside and giggle. Our own little space.
I called her Mom because I wanted to. Please do not misunderstand me, my birth mom, my mom, my mum, mama, my mother will always hold top spot in my heart. But I have another mom, a woman who came along down the road unprepared for raising a toddler, let alone one from a “broken home” as they called it back in the day.
A woman who did what she could, what she could muster, her best being a second wife to a man that came with a child, more often than not referred to as “baggage”. I have met many a person in my life who treat step children as just that, a suitcase to be lugged in and out of the house on court dictated weekends. I know these people exist, I know that children all over the world are treated as “less than”. This was not, has never been, and will never be my experience. My apologies to those that have suffered, but I lucked out on the lottery of second “Mom’s”.
This woman embraced me first as a friend. I was raised respectful from both of my parents, pre-new Mom, so I understood the rules of treating her home with respect. Almost like going to Grandma’s. And I believe I acted accordingly. Trust and respect earned mutually, a bond formed. For what unknown, unexplained reason this woman cared for me. She treated me as if I had been a member of her family since conception. Why?
When my dad first said he was bringing someone to meet me, I was a child and hopeful that my dad had gotten a puppy. Seriously. I was legitimately upset when a blonde woman waved from the passenger seat instead of a blonde retriever. I suffered through dinners, bowling, and movie nights. The third wheel, struggling behind on a date. Who was this lady? What did she think she was doing? This was my dad, good luck blondie.
But please give blondie credit where credit is due. At some point she determined that she loved this man, daughter and all. She was committing to being a first time mom to another woman’s child. She may not know the path, but she wasn’t going to let that stop her. She was determined, and it showed. She treated me, and my actual Mom, with kindness and respect at all times. If her family had doubts, none were raised in my presence. She was my friend, a confidant if needed, someone to laugh at Dad with, someone to dance around the living room to 70’s music with.
When I picked up smoking at a young age, and she busted me, she held my secret until I was ready to tell Dad. When that first crush stomped on my heart just before my weekend with Dad, there she was with ice cream to tell me I was better off without him. This woman cared. She loved. She was concerned, she was invested. Still I wondered, why?
Add a few years of being newlywed and soon the announcement comes, my baby brother or sister is on the way. As her belly grows and grows, so does her anxiety about being a mom. Despite having a practice kid for a few years, she’s still terrified. Hormones flowing she is overcompensating now. She wants to make sure I don’t feel excluded. Baby brain be damned, this woman has her priorities straight.
Every time I visit she ensures that I’m involved in the plans. “These are the blankets we picked, a neutral jungle theme, do you think they’ll be okay? We thought also maybe these ones”, and out comes the Sears catalogue. I’m 11 and can’t decide if she’s asking if I would like them myself, or if I approve the decision. She’s neurotic and pregnant, neither of which she hides. Instead she leans on me for support and help. This grown woman wants, if not seeks, my opinion. She has shown me love, but now she shows me trust, true and actual confidence.
My brother comes along, and at this point we’re still on a first name basis. No friction, just reality. Still this woman seeks to include me, and while she’s a new mom and has other baby-like duties, I’m pawned off to her loving family like a puppy. These people don’t treat me like the old pair of shoes, rather they focus on me. To this day in my mid-thirties I don’t know if it’s because they’re all wonderful people, or if because she asked, but they do.
My brother begins talking, and I realize given names are probably confusing, so I ask for her permission to call her Mom. Under the guise that it’s what my brother needs, but truthfully because this woman, who I’d once hoped was a golden retriever, has in fact shown me kindness and love since the first time we met. She loves me unconditionally already, and I can tell because it’s of our bond and has little to do with being my Dad’s baggage anymore.
Years later, after my Mom passed, I would find out that this woman was so determined she crossed “the line”. She reached out to my real Mom, asked questions and for advice. Scared and unsure, and caring only for the child asleep in what was once her guest room, she gathered the courage to pick up the phone and ask for support. She was the birth of co-parenting whether she realizes it or not. This woman did what she thought was best for a child, instead of handling baggage dropped at her door.
To this day, I love this woman I now call Mom. My own Mother passed away 15 years ago, and almost as if she predicted her own early demise, she reached back to the scared and worried young woman and said “this is how”, “try this”, “you’ve got this.” Instead of harbouring hatred, she loved, encouraged, cared for and embraced this woman who would be a part of her daughter’s life for many years to come.
Thirty years I’ve loved this woman. A woman who embraced and encouraged me. A woman who has treated me like her own since the day we met. A woman who didn’t hide her fears, a woman who shared herself. Someone who got her own child, and still treated me with the same unconditional love, support and grace as if I had come from her own womb. This woman who took a loving man’s “baggage” and carefully unpacked it as if it meant the world.
To my “other” Mom, there will never be words to thank you enough for what you have done, and who you are. I love you.